Saudi Arabia, Turkey Pushed Syrian Opposition to Leave Talks

Saudi Arabia, Turkey Pushed Syrian Opposition to Leave Talks

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - The Syrian opposition abruptly withdrew from peace talks in Geneva this week under pressure from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, two of the main backers of the militants, according to diplomats.

When Syrian army and allied forces made strategic advances in north of the country, Riyadh and Ankara began to consider telling the opposition to withdraw, according to Turkish and Saudi diplomats present in Geneva this week with the opposition.

About a half-dozen cities and towns targeted in the new Syrian attacks have one thing in common: All were held by militants funded and armed by Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Complicating the picture is that some, but not all, of these groups collaborate with the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.

“The Russian offensives were painful,” said Louay Hussein, a prominent Syrian militant leader and a member of the delegation that was going to engage in indirect talks with the Syrian government. “So the Saudis and Turks said: ‘Stop. These are my cards and I am losing them one after another’ ”, The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.

The focus of all parties is shifting to Munich, where a meeting this coming week will bring together international powers involved in the five-year conflict, including the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. They are expected to focus first on forging a cease-fire, albeit a partial one, in the hope that this would enable the parties to restart the talks in Geneva on a political transition.

But ahead of those talks, events on the ground are moving quickly as both sides try to position themselves for a possible return to the negotiating table.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal in Geneva this week, one senior Turkish official said his country would never accept a settlement in Syria that doesn’t take into account its own interests.

On Friday, Syrian army and allied forces captured with the help of Russian airstrikes the town of Ratyan on the outskirts of Aleppo, according to militant activists as well as media reports. The town is situated along the main lifeline for the militants to neighboring Turkey. Later some militant activists said half of the town remained contested and that fierce fighting was ongoing.

If captured, it would be the fifth town or village these forces seized from militants since Monday, a development that has allowed them to lift a siege imposed by opponents of President Bashar al-Assad on two Shiite and towns near Aleppo, Nubl and Zahraa.

Airstrikes by the Syrian air force and its allies expanded Friday to the militant-held eastern half of Aleppo city, anti-government militants said.

In the south, Syrian forces aided by Russian warplanes captured the strategic town of Ataman, considered the gateway to the city of Daraa, according to the Syrian military and opposition activists. It was the second strategic town militants lost in the south within 10 days.

All of these places were held by militant groups funded and armed by Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and Turkey and in some cases in coordination with the US.

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